I am all about doing things the right way. Taking the time to do things right whether your in the kitchen or out in the orchard always bring better results in terms of flavor. The term “heirloom” brings excitement to anyone enthusiastic about produce. A few years ago I discovered heirloom navel oranges and it was one of the best discoveries I have made in my food journey. What might be wondering what makes it different than the regular naval orange you are used to buying?

What Makes a Navel Orange a Heirloom?
The word heirloom itself means something that has been passed down from generation to generation. The heirloom navel is the same fruit that got California’s citrus industry booming. It’s the original or “old line” Washington Navel. The navel has been bred over the years to produce more fruit, easier, and faster without considering flavor. Heirloom navels are grown using certain farming practices. The grower gives special attention to the soil, just like it was done since navels were introduced to America from Brazil in the 1800s. The secret is to use the best root stock. The heirlooms grow best in a sour root stock. But these isn’t commonly used anymore because the trees don’t produce fruit as heavily or as quickly than in newer root stocks. Doing things the right way is what gives the heirloom navels there amazing taste. If you have one of these, I think you will be disappointed if you ever buy the grocery market standard navel again.

Sometimes you find find heirloom navels still with their leaves intact and sometimes you won’t. Unlike the navel you are used to, heirlooms aren’t in stores year around. They typically will find them in stores from December into late April/early May with the peak being in the winter months. A couple of growers to look out for are Ripe to You and Cecelia Packing.

You will recognize Ripe to You by their black stickers with the website “ripetoyou.com” written on them. I have grown to trust that I am getting quality citrus whenever I see one of those stickers. They grow their heirlooms at Rising C Ranches in Orange Cove, California.

Cecelia Packing uses their Sky Valley label for their heirloom navels. I recently discovered them at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s and was pleased with the quality and price. I also purchased one of their Cara Cara Navels at Whole Foods and wish I had bought more!

When are Heirloom Navels in Season?
Growing things the right way sometime takes more time. The first California Navels start to hit the market more than a month before the heirlooms. Around mid-January is when you can realistically begin expecting to see Heirloom Navels show up in your local store.

Do They Grow Heirloom Navels in Florida as well?
To me knowledge they do not. I have searched around on the subject and have come up empty handed. It seems to be a Cali only thing.

Have you had an heirloom navel? I would love to know what you think? Leave a comment below.

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Comments for This Post

  1. Sam Botkin February 22, 2012, 11:07 am

    Thank you, for the kind words. We have felt for some time that we had something special in this ranch. You hit the nail on the head.

  2. admin February 22, 2012, 11:14 am

    Thanks for the comment. You do indeed have something special, I am glad I discovered it and I hope more people do as well.

  3. jun January 26, 2013, 10:22 pm

    I love the heirloom navel Oranges and just discovered it this winter and eating only this orange the whole winter :)

  4. Aaron February 5, 2013, 11:13 pm

    Since I came across these a few years ago, each year I wait for Cecilia’s Sky Valley oranges to hit the shelves at my local Trader Joes. I START my orange eating season when they come around and I don’t eat any other grower’s oranges any more (if only they were organic…). I swear I probably eat through one entire orange tree’s worth of oranges by the time the last bags leave the store in early April. Now, if only I could find an old line washington navel orange tree with sour orange root stock to plant…

  5. Eric Samuelson February 6, 2013, 10:08 am

    Good to see another fan out there!

  6. Roberta Navarro March 21, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Our local grocery store had “Heirloom” oranges on special a couple of weeks ago here in Glendora Calif
    I have a young nephew who does not care for fruit but tried some of these oranges and got hooked on them.
    Said they were just right and not too bulky like the other thicker skinned oranges.
    Have called the grocery store to see if they are going to bring more product in.(Hopefully so!!)

    Thank you

    R Navarro

  7. Gary April 2, 2013, 8:58 pm

    Just bought my first Heirloom navel oranges today. I found it absolutely delicious but a bit difficult to peel. I will definitely buy them when they are in the store. I wish they were available year round.

  8. Eric Samuelson April 3, 2013, 6:16 am

    I am glad that you found them. Once you go heirloom you never want to go back! You did point out the only drawbacks they have no being available year round and being difficult to peel – but they are worth it.

  9. Donna April 22, 2013, 12:18 pm

    I found heirloom navel oranges at the Fresh Market in Spartanburg SC a couple of weeks ago and have fallen in love. I had jus complained that oranges don’t taste like oranges anymore, and then I found these. I only bought a couple at first, then went back and bought a dozen, and am eating my last one right now. I am going after work to see if they have anymore and will be very disappointed if they are out! I wanted to know the difference between heirlooms and regular FL or CA navels, and now I know! Thanks!

  10. S Boser March 27, 2014, 7:32 pm

    Best oranges ever!

  11. Monique Anzules March 28, 2014, 2:19 pm

    I love these Heirloom navels! I buy all I can get my hands on. With or without a sale! I’m crazy for them! LOL!

  12. phillip moore December 22, 2014, 4:08 pm

    the best and sweetest navel orange I have ever eaten. have only been able to find them at Fresh Market in Knoxville.

  13. Eric Samuelson December 23, 2014, 8:51 am

    Glad you found them. Amazing when things are done the right way, how good something can be! If you have a Whole Foods Market near you, you should be able to find them there.

  14. Jackie December 30, 2014, 11:11 am

    I just discovered the heirloom navels last week as they were on sale at a local market bear my chiropractor. I stop in there after my appointments to browse the produce section. I was needing more oranges and got excited when I saw how gorgeous these looked. I bought 4 bags worth! I juiced them the next morning and oh my gosh!!! They are so sweet and yummy. Just like an orange should taste. I’m driving the 24 miles today to go buy a case because the sale ends today ;)

  15. Libba Campbell February 18, 2015, 5:36 pm

    I just ate my first Heirloom orange this morning. We cut the last organic navel we had, ate half of it, then cut and tasted the heirloom. Definitely sweeter. I went back to Whole Foods and bought more this afternoon. The sticker said Heirloom 3107, gold on black. Nothing else. I’ve never seen them before yesterday. I will certainly look for them again. I hope to find them grown organically.

  16. Eric Samuelson February 20, 2015, 1:52 pm

    Glad you go to enjoy an heirllom navel. I have never seen any organic heirlooms as of yet. I recognize the sticker you are talking about. This is from Rising C Ranches or Ripe to You (http://www.ripetoyou.com/). Their website talks about their farming practices and there is contact information on there if you have more questions for them.

  17. Brad March 24, 2015, 7:49 am

    I’m 40yrs old. I just ate my 1st heirloom orange, and practically inhaled the 2nd one. You don’t find these everyday in SC.

  18. Eric Samuelson March 26, 2015, 12:52 pm

    Awesome! They are usually only available from December to May, so you can’t get them year round.

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